For most, instrumental surf music first evokes the idyllic, sun-and-sand environment of the land of its birth — the West Coast. But even during its initial early 1960s height, the style made a splash among legions of landlocked musicians, players for whom the term “hang ten” probably had more to do with pinning up the laundry than riding the waves. Indeed, as the multi-volume compilation series Surfin’ in the Midwest attests, there were scads of surf bands in spots not exactly known for their ten-foot tubes. And so with the music’s resurrection in the wake of the Dick Dale-soundtracked 1994 film Pulp Fiction, it’s only fitting that this tradition of dry-land surf rockers should also manifest itself in the Hudson Valley. Enter local trio the High Five Revival, which plays this Friday at Skytop Steakhouse in Kingston and this Saturday at the Coney Island Rock ’n’ Roll Roadshow Homecoming event at Cabaloosa in New Paltz.
“I guess what most attracted me to [playing in a surf revival band] was the whole West Coast-culture thing that goes along with it,” says bassist Mike “Pugsley” Cashen, who with guitarist Todd “Tito” Jansen and drummer Johnny “Pancacko” Pancake make up the band. “The cool cars, hot chicks, low-brow ‘monster’ cartoon art on the posters. It’s just rad.” Much of this aesthetic is rooted in surf’s twin cousin, hot rod rock, which evolved slightly later when bands traded the themes of beaches and foam for those of exhaust and asphalt.
The Kingston-based High Five Revival, whose members’ ages range from the late 20s to the early 30s, began in 2008 as a home-recording project by Jansen, a former member of hardcore quintet Slipfist and the pop-punk unit Big Town Small Town (which also featured Pancake). When he decided to take the concept to the stage, Jansen roped in Pancake, the group’s only non-Kingston native, and an earlier bassist for a bill with Cashen’s old band, punkabilly quartet the Dead Luck Devilles. When the High Five Revival’s bass slot opened up, Cashen, who manages Pugsley’s Traditional Barbershop on Main Street and is a veteran of pop punk outfit Jerk Magnet and the prog-metal Anadivine, quickly volunteered.